Portugal or Greece? Which Country Should I Visit This Year?
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis
Portugal or Greece – it’s not a terribly bad decision to have to make when it comes to that next vacation in Europe, you know. These are two of the most sun-splashed, nature-rich, food-filled, culture-brimming countries out there. They offer everything from postcard-perfect beaches to immersive cityscapes to wild interiors riddled with hiking paths.
But Portugal and Greece are also indelibly different places. They might both be in southern Europe, but one’s in the calm waters of the Mediterranean, while the other spills into the wild Atlantic Ocean. On top of that, they have very different histories, cuisines, traditions, and ways to travel.
Cue this guide. It’s your 101 run through of whether it should be Portugal or Greece this season. Will you go for the glinting surf beaches of the Algarve and Lisbon’s soaring Moorish castles? Or will it be the idyllic isles of the Aegean Sea and the great monuments of Athens? Let’s get to it…
Table of Contents
Portugal or Greece for ease of traveling there?
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis
Portugal and Greece are two of Europe’s most Popular travel destinations. Together they get millions (mhmm…millions!) of visitors every year. The upshot? Neither of these will be tricky to get to.
The main access point to Greece is via Athens. There, a huge international airport is served by long-haul connections (including a leg to the major Middle Eastern hubs) and stacks of short-haul links besides. But that’s just the beginning. You couldn’t count the number of smaller airports that exist on the Greek islands on a single hand. They get loads of flights with airlines like Ryanair and easyJet that often run seasonally (between May and October), taking you direct to awesome destinations like Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, and Kos. The more romantic way to arrive in Greece is by boat. Ferries come over from Italy in the west and Turkey in the east. They will take longer than flying but also offer an experience in its own right.
Portugal has two major airports. Lisbon is the biggest and the vast majority of transatlantic flights will go there. However, you might get some US-Euro connections into Porto, often going via the Azores. Faro Airport is the better gateway to the Algarve region, but it’s mainly served by low-cost carriers on a seasonal basis. Lisbon’s answer to the international ferries of Greece is a sleeper train connection with Spain, which means you get a nice eco-friendly way to arrive from cities like Paris and Madrid if you want to do it on the locomotive.
Greece or Portugal for getting around?
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With the exception of Madeira and the Azores, Portugal is one contiguous country at the very cap of the Iberian Peninsula. That means you can travel the whole thing by road (and car rentals do tend to be pretty cheap in these parts) or train and visit many of the top highlights. Normal itineraries will take in the two main historic cities of Porto and Lisbon before finishing amid the beaches of the southern Algarve. The only flights or boats you’ll need to think about are the ones that take you out to the archipelagos in the Atlantic, but we’d say they deserve a whole holiday on their own.
Greece is much trickier to get around than Portugal. The country has a whopping 6,000 islands in all. Only a few of those are inhabited and they are served by a pretty comprehensive ferry network, but getting from A to B often means putting yourself at the mercy of public transport. Of course, chartering your own yacht will solve that, but expect to pay a pretty penny for the luxury of a 40-footer in the summer months. Mainland Greece has a relatively good road network but the geography – lots of mountains and peninsulas – means that travel times are often much longer than they are in Portugal.
Portugal or Greece for things to do?
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If we had to put together a bucket list for Greece it would probably read something like: Island hopping, see the Santorini caldera, visit the Acropolis in Athens, uncover the ancient sites of Delphi and Mycenae, drive the mountains in Crete, and then finish with a raucous party night in Mykonos or Rhodes. Obviously, it might be hard to fit all that into a single trip, but the point is that Greece has oodles of things to do up its sleeve. We’d say it’s a fantastic option for a whole medley of travelers, from hiking buffs to sailors to foodies. Did we mention that this is one of the most popular places to visit in Europe? Easy to see why, eh?
Portugal also manages to be somewhere that offers loads for loads of different sorts of folks. In recent years it’s risen and risen to rival France as one of Europe’s major surf destinations (check out Peniche or Sagres for that). It’s rich in historical cities (more on those later). It’s blessed with eye-watering beaches, especially down in the Algarve. You can go fishing, hiking wild coast paths, exploring medieval monasteries and UNESCO sites in the mountains – it’s all pretty enticing. That said, we think that the sheer variety that’s offered by the Greek islands tips this one to the Mediterranean.
Portugal or Greece for food?
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Food is going to be a HUGE part of your holiday, no matter if you’re heading to Portugal or Greece. Seriously, these are two fantastically culinary nations…
Portugal is all about rustic, farm-to-table country cooking and Atlantic coast seafood. Those combine to offer hearty meals like salt-cod bakes, steaks in red-wine sauce, and stacked meat sandwiches in cheese dressings (a Porto specialty). Fish lovers will probably do best in the south, where the Algarve has countless little villages with family grill houses that serve cuts fresh off the BBQ. Wine buffs will undoubtedly prefer the north. That’s the province of the Douro Valley, where some of the continent’s very finest reds are made and bottled.
Enter Greece. The national cuisine here is a symphony of such simplicity and tastiness that it’s hard not to rush right in and award the winnings right away. Fried saganaki cheese served with fresh lemon, tzatziki with garlic, souvlaki skewers, fresh Greek salads with tomatoes the likes of which you’ve never sampled best, octopus off the coals – there’s a reason it’s legendary! Eating in Greece is done in traditional tavernas. There’s at least one in most villages, but we think the best are under the olive groves a few feet from the Aegean Sea.
Portugal or Greece for cities?
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Portugal opens things with a duo of incredible cities: Porto, in the north, and Lisbon, the capital, roughly midway down the Atlantic coast. We actually think they trump Athens, perhaps not on history, but for pure depth of character. These are towns where you’ll sip cold Sagres beer while watching the sunset over the water, discover tile-fronted churches that ooze Instagram worthiness, and wander cobbled historic districts that never fail to enchant. And it doesn’t end there. Lagos is the Algarve’s jewel, touting an old castle above shimmering urban beaches, while Funchal in Madeira is the home of the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum (a must for footie buffs).
Greece’s cities certainly claim the history. They reign as some of the oldest on the planet, with Athens capping them off. The capital is certainly a bucket list must. It’s crowned by the Parthenon and hosts the ancient Athenian Agora where democracy itself was invented. Other cities worthy of note are Heraklion and Chania on Crete, which have charming old towns and exceptionally ancient history dating back over 3,000 years. Thessaloniki is the northern hub, where there’s an intriguing mix of Byzantine and Balkan character to experience.
Portugal or Greece for nightlife?
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There’s pretty good nightlife in both of these destinations, catering to a whole range of different hedonistic travelers. Towns like Albufeira and Lagos in Portugal are the liveliest resort places in the country. They’re the 18-30s style summer party spots that can rival the big-name party towns of Greece (more on those just below). Each town has its very own strip of bars and bumping dance clubs, often populated with Scandinavian, British, and German youngsters between May and September. On top of that, you get the city nightlife of Lisbon and Porto. The first revolves around the buzzy Bairro Alto and the Baixa de Lisboa district, while Porto is all about the edgy coffee joints and beer bars of Vitória and the port cellars of Ribeira.
When it comes to nightlife in Greece, there are a few select destinations that really stand out from the crowd. Yep, the country has about five or six of the liveliest summertime locations in the Med, which is saying something – the Med is home to Aiya Napa and Ibiza, remember? There’s chic Mykonos, a major LGBTQ+ destination with beach bars that hit the EDM until the early hours. There’s Ios, the major Cycladean party island with its uber-raucous bars. Then you get Malia, in Crete, and Kavos, on Corfu, which are similar towns for 18-30s partiers based around a buzzy strip. We’d also say it’s worth considering Rhodes (for Faliraki) and Zante (for Laganas) – both are pretty wild.
Winner: Portugal. That’s more personal preference because we prefer parties in major cities to dedicated 18-30s resorts.
Portugal or Greece for beaches?
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It’s hardly a secret that a vast proportion of the travelers who head to both Portugal and Greece each year will be going for one thing and one thing only: The beaches. These countries lay claim to some of the finest bays and coves in the whole of Europe. Nope, scratch that – the whole of the world!
Let’s start with Portugal. The southern Algarve probably takes the biscuit here. It’s a land fringed from tip to toe in stunning inlets. In the west they are wide, open stretches of perfectly taupe powder backed by wiggling rivers (check out Praia da Amoreira, for example). The coast changes direction at the rock-spotted beaches of Sagres (a surfer’s mecca) and then runs east to the Spanish border, passing some of the most spectacular beaches of all as it goes: Praia das Furnas, Praia da Boca do Rio, Praia de Dona Ana.
These are the famous golden bays of Portugal, backed by high cliffs and beset by azure seas, but they also aren’t the only places to explore on the coast. We also love the Silver Coast, a long run of beaches that go between Lisbon and Portugal for miles and miles, and the Green Coast, the northern end of the country just before the Galician border.
Still, for all the breathtaking beauty of Portugal, there’s simply no getting around the fact that Greece holds the cards here. Some estimations have it that there are over 6,000 islets in the country. They combine with thousands of miles of mainland coastline to offer more beaches than you could possibly get through in a single trip – or a lifetime, for that matter!
There’s simply no space to list all of the standouts, but we’ll namedrop a few of the ones that have taken our breath away: Elafonisi and Sweet Water Beach on Crete, Shipwreck Bay on Zante (seriously, wow!), the north coast of Milos, pine-dotted Fiskardo Bay on Kefalonia. That should stoke the wanderlust a little. There really is so much to get through, and you’re never more than a few hours from a cracking beach in Greece, even up in the soaring mountains of the north.
Portugal or Greece for nature?
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Portugal has a lot more inland than many tourists ever know. That’s because the bulk of people who travel here stick to the coastline. We think the north of the country is especially wonderful. It’s the home of the wonderful Peneda-Gerês National Park, the only national park in Portugal. Head in to find crumpled mountains and crystal-clear kettle lakes where you can wild swim. A touch further south come the Serra da Estrela, where rustic schist villages crown the summits and there are hiking paths around wooded river valleys. The south has gems like Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, which is rugged coastline hemmed in by wildflower meadows and heather heath.
Greece is drama from beginning to end on the nature front. Soaring mountains that top out at 2,917-meter-high Mount Olympus dominate the mainland, while islands like Corfu and Lefkas have their own mighty ridges that loom above a shimmering Ionian Sea. The Peloponnese is about scrub-dressed highlands, there are Saronic isles covered in pine woods, and then comes Crete, with it’s UNESCO-tagged Samaria Gorge. We really don’t think there’s any beating it…
Portugal or Greece for weather?
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There’s not much in it when it comes to weather. Both Portugal and Greece follow a four-season pattern with a long summer (read: tourist) season in the middle. Things start to heat up in both places around late March, with summer temperature highs easily hitting over 100 F in the hottest months of June, July, and August. It’s also common to see hardly a drop of rain at that time, especially in the southernmost islands of Greece and in the Algarve in Portugal.
Basically, we’d say don’t worry one iota about the weather in either of these places if you’re planning a trip in the summer. However, there are some things we’d say be wary of. Number one: Greece can get strong fall storms known as Medicanes. They usually pull across the Ionian Sea and the central Aegean in early October, so the eastern isles of the Dodecanese could be a better pick at that time. Greece also has strong north-blowing winds in the summer, which are rarely so bad they’ll impact a trip but can be annoying on islands like Crete where most of the hotel resorrs are on the windward shore.
When it comes to Portugal, bear in mind that the climate is heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Crisp, cold days and lots of mist aren’t uncommon in the winter months. What’s more, the time from November to March can be positively cold up in Porto and the northern regions. Portugal also gets considerably more rain than Greece, but that can be avoided by holidaying at peak times (though that will cost a little more).
Winner: Draw. The weather in both of these places is stunning.
We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a holiday to either Portugal or Greece. Both places are, simply, gorgeous. They’re both super warm, have plenty of sunshine to go around, and offer unique history and culture. Generally, Greece is probably better for those who want to laze on the beach or sail the seas, while Portugal has more enthralling cities, better surf, and wilder coastal reaches.
Greece or Italy? Which Destination Is Better For You?
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Dreaming of a Mediterranean vacation but unsure whether to choose Greece or Italy? Well, you’ve come to the right place…We’ve put together a comparison of these two beautiful countries, discussing what’s on offer in each to help you choose which one is right for you this year.
There are plenty of reasons to visit both. They’re both wonderful destinations that are known for their warm climates, beautiful landscapes, pristine beaches, delicious food, incredible history – we could go on and on! But there are also key differences here that mean each place caters to a slightly different type of traveler.
That’s where this guide comes in. It will focus on the main things that set each place apart. From the history and the art that’s on offer to culture vultures to the wild natural reaches of each place and the shimmering beaches, it will run through the whole shebang to help you decide where you’ll be going in Europe this year…
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Greece or Italy: History and art
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There is no doubt that history lovers will be in their element in either of these two destinations. Greece, considered the very birthplace of western civilization, is filled with the remnants of ancient temples, monuments, and arenas, all with names straight out of mythology. Where else can you climb Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, run on the first-ever Olympic track, visit the birthplace of Aphrodite, or the home of Odysseus? Plus, it’s got one of the most recognizable historic sites in the world: The Athenian Acropolis and Parthenon.
There are not many countries as steeped in history as Greece, but Italy is one of them. Italy leads the world for the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites with a whopping 58 up its sleeve. They include the entire historic center of Rome, with its Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi fountain, and the Sistine Chapel. Then there’s Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. There’s Pompeii, where you can get a glimpse of ancient Roman life, and Milan where you can view one of the world’s most famous paintings, da Vinci’s Last Supper. It’s almost endless!
Winner: It’s got to be a draw – Greece and Italy are two the most historic places in the world!
Greece or Italy: Islands and beaches
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Greece’s beautiful islands, scattered across the Aegean and Ionian seas, are one of the main reasons that tourists flock to this country by their millions every year. The collection of just over 6,000 islands is home to some of Europe’s best beaches, some of the continent’s most pristine waters, and its most beautiful holiday destinations. Yep, there’s an island to suit virtually every taste, from the glamour of Mykonos to the buzz of Zakynthos, historical Crete to laid-back Lipsi. But why pick just one? Island hopping tours can take you to five, 10, 20, in one single swoop!
While Italy’s islands might not be as well known, they are still pretty special. Sardinia is a beach lover’s paradise, while Capri is an education in glamour, and Sicily offers volcanic landscapes, ancient ruins, great food, and modern artistic flair. Or how about visiting Italy’s most southern island, Lampedusa, with its otherworldly beautiful beach Spiaggia Dei Conigli? Back on the mainland, you might have to hunt for the beaches amidst the rugged stretches of cliff-lined coastline. But, between the northern shores of Portofino, Adriatic Rimini, the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, and Tropea down on the “toe,” you’ll undoubtedly find a stunning beach to suit you in Italy.
Winner: Greece. The islands and the beaches are legendary.
Greece or Italy: Natural wonders
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It’s not all about the beaches. Both of these destinations have incredible natural landscapes that are well worth exploring. Why not take a rowing boat through Melissani, ‘the Cave of the Nymphs’, in Greece? Head to Lemnos to explore the Gomati Desert, or hike the Stone Forest in northern Epirus. Up north, there’s the strange karst rock formations of Meteora, which look like something out of Avatar with mystical temples on their tops. Talking of mountaintops, check out the soaring summits of Olympus (2,900 meters up, you know?) or the Lefka Ori of Crete, with its gorges and summits above the Libyan Sea.
Then comes Italy. Here, you can hike or ski the jagged peaks of the Dolomites. They’re considered some of the most stunning mountains in the world – yep, the whole world! You can take a tour of Italy’s spectacular lakes, from romantic Como to grand Garda to beautiful Orta and serene Maggiore. You can soak in the geothermally heated pools of Cascate del Mulino, explore the magical Blue Grotto of Capri, and climb the tiered limestone cliffs of Sicily. And of course, visit Europe’s most active volcano, the constantly smoking Mount Etna.
Winner: For the sheer drama of the Dolomites, Mount Etna, and the Lakes, we’re giving this one to Italy.
Greece or Italy: Towns and cities
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There is no shortage of beautiful cities in Italy. Naturally, you’d start with Rome. The capital is packed with ancient wonders like the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, but also buzzes with life on the Piazza del Popolo and beyond. Then comes artistic Florence, with its Renaissance frescoes, enchanting Venice, with its waterways and lagoon, and modern Milan, the epicenter of all things fashion and shopping. Down south is gritty Naples, known for its chaotic attitude and surprising beauty. There are smaller spots, too, like Siena, nestled amidst the beautiful Tuscan countryside, or fair Verona of Shakespearean fame.
While it’s true that most people visit Greece to go island hopping rather than city hopping, the country isn’t without its urban charms. Athens is the oldest capital city in Europe, home to some of the most recognizable historical sights in the world, a cosmopolitan shopping, art, and restaurant scene, and some thriving nightlife. Thessaloniki is a little quieter than Athens, but it has its own impressive history, as evidenced by the Byzantine Castle overlooking the city. You’ll also find plenty of excellent restaurants and a vibrant, youthful party scene there. We also should mention UNESCO-tagged Rhodes Town and lovely Chania, where you can get lost in an old Venetian neighborhood by the sea.
Winner: Italy’s cities are more plentiful, more beautiful, and filled with bucket-list experiences like seeing Juliet’s balcony, the Colosseum, or taking a gondola ride. It’s a win for Italy.
Greece or Italy: Nightlife
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The nightlife in Italy is all about enjoying aperitivo. Those are early evening cocktails that come before a long dinner. Then it’s cue the fantastic nightlife hubs in all the cities. Milan has perhaps the most modern scene, while Rome is known for its live music, and Naples is always lively with al fresco bars. Or head to the Versilia area of the Tuscan coast for some of the best beach parties in Italy. Rimini, on the East Coast, is known for its festivals. The the Riviera Romagnola there draws young people from all over Europe every summer to party till dawn along the endless stretch of bars and clubs.
Greece has long been known as one of the biggest party spots in Europe. Mykonos is arguably the most famous island for nightlife (sorry, Ibiza!), and it prides itself on its cool clubs and chichi vibe. For something less exclusive, try the party strips of Kavos in Corfu, Faliraki in Rhodes, or Laganas in Zakynthos. Skiathos and Kos also know how to have a good time. If you want to party city-style, head to Athens, where you’ll find cool cocktail lounges, glamorous bars, hipster hangouts, LGBTQ+ venues, and super clubs alike.
Winner: While Italy’s nightlife is undoubtedly very cool, it’s geared more towards locals than tourists. Greece’s nightlife is more inclusive and accessible, so we’re giving them this one.
Greece or Italy: Food and drink
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The beauty of Greek food is in its simplicity. Yep, the ethos of this southerly Mediterranean cuisine is to take the freshest ingredients and do very little to them. For example, a Greek salad is a straightforward yet delicious mix of vine-ripened tomatoes, salty feta, and drizzles of the local olive oil. Bliss!
We’re also big fans of lightly grilled fresh seafood, vine leaves stuffed with fragrant lemon rice, courgette and feta fritters, and souvlaki skewers of perfectly cooked meat. For heartier fare, try the ultimate Greek dish: Moussaka. That involves oven-baked layers of spiced meat, and eggplant in a creamy béchamel sauce. You can finish it off with a tipple of Ouzo, an aniseed-flavored spirit drunk with a dash of water and a cry of Yamas!
Italy has a global reputation for culinary excellence and you’ll find a lot more diversity between regions than in Greece. Each area has a traditional dish or signature way of preparing it, and a tour around the country is a chance to sample many different delicacies.
In Tuscany, try bistecca Fiorentina (steak of Florence) or fresh ravioli stuffed with ricotta. In Naples, the birthplace of pizza, sample the most delicious margherita of your life (check out Sorbillo for one of our favs). Be sure to try the fried sardines and squid-ink risotto in Venice, eat pesto pasta in its birthplace of Genoa, and enjoy exquisite cream-filled cannoli in Sicily. And, this being Italy, pair your meal with excellent local wines, finish up with a tiny, potent espresso, and then – if you have room – go in search of gelato!
Winner: Although we’d happily eat Greek food for the rest of our lives, we’re giving this one to Italy for variety.
Greece or Italy: Budget
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One of the best things about both of these countries is that they cater to all budgets. There is enough variety of destinations and accommodations in both Italy and Greece to let you find package holidays, budget breaks, and luxury escapes to suit all tastes.
Italy is perhaps a little more expensive than Greece, especially if you want a city break. That’s because Rome, Venice, and Milan all come with a higher price tag than Athens or Thessaloniki. And places like Capri, Portofino, Lake Como, and the beautiful Cinque Terre are renowned for being high-end destinations that are filled with jet setters. For a more affordable break, try Marche, Naples, Sicily, or Apulia.
Similarly, in Greece, you can opt for exclusivity and luxury with a trip to Santorini or Mykonos if you like. However, there are loads of budget options to balance those out. You could try south-coast Crete, the less-trodden parts of Zakynthos, Corfu later on in the season, or even the remote towns and villages of the Peloponnese.
Winner: You can holiday in either spot on a big or small budget, but since Greece is marginally cheaper, it wins this one.
Greece or Italy: Getting there
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There’s good news for anyone looking to get to either Greece or Italy. These two sun-kissed Mediterranean countries are among the best connected in all of Europe. That’s almost solely down to the fact that they are such popular holidaying destinations. Let’s break it down a little more:
Greece has just one major air hub: Athens. It’s the biggest airport in the country and virtually the only place that handles long-haul flight links. However, there are also countless smaller airports on the various islands and in other towns across mainland Greece. They do tend to have a much more seasonal array of flights, though, meaning most connections run between May and September and then stop for the season. That said, it’s also easy to get to Greece by ferry, as there are international links from Italy (across the Adriatic Sea) and from Turkey (from Bodrum and Maramaris).
Italy has several big airports. Rome alone has two major hubs, while Milan boasts three! And that’s not even mentioning Pisa, the gateway to Tuscany or the arrival points of Naples and Palermo in the south. Basically, there are loads of flight options, and many run all throughout the year to cater to sun seekers and skiers alike. On top of that, you can reach Italy on high-speed train links from Paris and on overnight trains from Germany, along with international bus connections from all across Central Europe.
Winner: Italy – more airport, better coach and train links to the rest of Europe.
Greece or Italy: Top things to do
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Greece has made a name for itself as one of Europe’s top R&R destinations. There are shimmering beaches, idyllic coves, and oodles of villas and hotels by the Aegean Sea that can help crank up the relaxation factor. It’s also one of the world’s premier sailing locations, and anyone with a skipper qualification should seriously look at a yacht charter to explore the islands – it’s a bucket-list activity for sure. History tours of sites like Delphi and Epidaurus also come close to the top of the list in Greece, along with island hopping the trodden Cyclades isles routes between Santorini, Mykonos, Milos, and others.
Italy’s a bit more varied than that. The north is different to the south when it comes to activities. In the Dolomites and the Aosta Alps, you can hike in summer, bike in autumn, and ski in the winter months. Going south brings you to Tuscany, the home of wine tasting and culinary trips. Further south again means you hit the sunnier climbs of Sicily and Campania, which host beach resorts a bit like the sort you get in Greece. There are also cultural and romantic adventures to be had here, especially on city breaks to Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan.
Greece or Italy: Conclusion
It’s a 6-4 ending in favor of Italy, folks! But it’s a really close call on some of those and hopefully, you can see from this that there is no bad choice when it comes to Greece versus Italy. The decision really comes down to personal choice. Both destinations are capable of giving you a dream vacation, but if you’re an urban explorer or an art lover, if you want to hike dramatic mountains and tour the lakes, if you want to check off those bucket-list experiences that only Rome and Venice can provide, it had better be Italy. However, if your priority is island hopping, sailing from one pristine beach to the next, partying till dawn, or immersing yourself in ancient mythology, then it’s got to be Greece!
Greece Or Croatia? Which Mediterranean Destination Is Better?
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Will it be Greece or Croatia this year? Now that’s a tough one. These are two beautiful and popular Mediterranean destinations, both with an abundance of culture and history, stunning natural landscapes, sun-drenched beaches, delicious food packed with goodies from land and sea, unique histories wrapped up in tales of Byzantine empires and Ottoman sieges – you name it.
On the one hand there’s Greece. That’s one of the continent’s go-to sun and sand places. It’s got world-class isles from Corfu in the west to Rhodes in the east, along with mezze lunches you’ll never forget and some of the world’s most enthralling ancient ruins. Then there’s Croatia, a nation carved out by the end of the Alps, threaded with pebble coves where the waters are clearer than air, and steeped in Balkan charm.
Yep, it’s not going to be an easy choice by any measure. But this guide is at hand to help. It will run through all the ins and outs of picking Greece or Croatia for history lovers, for nightlife fanatics, for beach bums, and more, all so you can make the right choice for you and your travel crew this year…
Greece or Croatia for ease of getting there
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Greece is surely one of the easiest vacation hubs to get to in Europe. It might be fragmented into thousands of islands (more on those later) but it’s also got something like 15 international airports, many of which serve said islands with direct flights from other major European cities. Options for arriving from the skies include Santorini, Corfu, Crete (where there are actually two airports), Kos, Kefalonia – the list goes on. After landing, you can hop on ferries to get to other spots. The country has one of the most comprehensive boat networks of anywhere, but services are best in the spring and the summer months. You should also pre-book tickets.
Croatia is very long and thin. Its two main airports are in Split and Zagreb. The first is slowly growing to become the largest, mainly because it offers access to the popular rivieras on the Adriatic. We’d look to fly there if you’re keen to hit the famous beaches or venture out to the Dalmatian Islands of Brac and Hvar. Ferries in Croatia aren’t quite as good as in Greece, but they still aren’t bad. It’s common to have to do stopovers at mainland ports when you want to go isle to isle, though distances aren’t too long to make that a possibility. Driving can mean long distances but the coast highway is, simply, spectacular from end to end.
Winner: Greece is generally more accessible.
Table of Contents
Greece or Croatia for history
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If you want to feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, then there is no better place to explore than Greece. Where else can you walk in the footsteps of the ancient heroes of Troy and Greek gods and view places that blur the line between history and magic? From the iconic Parthenon in Athens to Olympia and the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, there’s a reason why this country draws history hunters and mythology lovers by their millions every year. A whopping 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites await here. The country is considered the birthplace of democracy. What more can you ask?
Croatia also has its fair share of history, created by many of the same civilizations that helped shape Greece. Both the ancient Greeks and the Romans left their mark on this country, as well as the Byzantines and the Ottoman Turks. Greece may have the better-known historical sights, but no one who visits the Diocletian’s Palace in Split or Dubrovnik’s medieval walls could be disappointed – the latter date all the way back to the 12 th century, while the former are 2,000 years old. Then you’ve got Pula Arena, a well-preserved amphitheater that rivals the Colosseum of Rome.
Winner: Greece. This is arguably the most historic country on the globe!
Greece or Croatia for islands
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Greece counts about 6,000 islands, while Croatia has around 1,000. Overall, they are pretty similar affairs, with the former beginning in the Ionian Sea at the south end of the Adriatic, which is where the islands of Croatia make their home. So similar, in fact, that Hollywood substituted a Croatian island (Vis) for a Greek island (Kalokairi) in the 2018 sequel to Mama Mia.
In Croatia, special mention should be made of Hvar. It’s hailed as one of the party hubs of the Mediterranean, coming capped by a happening marina town where bars like Hula Hula pulse the whole summer away. Then there’s impossibly green Milet, with its national parks and saltwater lakes. We also love Brac – it’s got arguably the finest beaches in the whole of the Adriatic (just check out Golden Horn Beach).
But it’s Greece that reigns supreme here. And it’s not just because of the quantity. The Greek isles are spread between three major regions, going from the Ionian in the west to the Dodecanese in the east. Along the way, they include bucket-list stunners like Santorini (talk about romantic!) and uber-vibrant party meccas like Mykonos (probably Europe’s LGBTQ+ mainstay). There are also islands that ooze rustic charm, from backcountry Corfu to hidden Kastellorizo, and ones for families in Paxos and Paros. Finally, the Greek islands boast a fantastic inter-island ferry network, making them better for island hoppers.
Greece or Croatia for towns and cities
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If you like your holidays to be city-based, you’ll find plenty of options in both of these countries. Athens leads the way in Greece. It’s a true megalopolis with frenetic bazaars and the old quarter of Plaka, all forever watched over by the Parthenon. The northern town of Thessaloniki is something a little different, offering student bars and cuisine that’s influenced by Turkey and the Balkans. Then you have the smaller island hubs of Corfu Town, complete with handsome 1800s churches, and the Cretan city of Chania, where you can get lost in winding lanes between Venetian castles.
Croatia’s cities often take the breath away. It’s no surprise that dramatically beautiful Dubrovnik was catapulted to fame as Kings Landing in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. No visitor to Split leaves without being impressed by its elegant streets and winding alleyways, many of which were laid down by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. Yep, Croatia’s main cities have an innate ability to marry old-world charm with modern vibrance. Whether you take a trip to the quirky capital of Zagreb, beautiful Pula, eclectic Osijek, or trendy Sibenik, you won’t be disappointed.
Greece or Croatia for nature
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If possible, your trip to Croatia should include a visit to the Plitvice Lakes National Park. That stunning reserve is home to a chain of 16 lakes connected by waterfalls cascading from one to the next. To see the scene repeated on a smaller scale, visit Rastoke, where the waterfalls flow through the center of the pretty village. We’d also say hit the lush Elaphiti Islands, where Croatia’s royalty once had their summer getaways. Mountain lovers can look to the forever-present chain of the Dinaric Alps, which run the backbone of Croatia, while Istria is for fjords and hills clad in olive groves.
Then there’s Greece. Here, how about exploring the surreal scenery of Meteora, where massive rock formations come topped by ancient monasteries and rise improbably out of the valley floor? You can also explore the volcanic rocks of hardened lava on Lemnos or the Samaria Gorge on Crete. For a more coastal adventure, how about visiting the mystical Cave of Malissani on Kefalonia, or taking a tour of Zakynthos’s Blue Caves, a geological formation of arches and waterways that shine blue with reflections from the Ionian Sea. It’s endless stuff.
Greece or Croatia for food
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The food in Greece is traditionally Mediterranean, with olives and olive oil playing a large part in most meals. Another staple is bread served with an arrangement of dips made from chickpea or aubergine, along with tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber) and taramasalata (a fish roe paste which visitors tend to love or hate). Rice-stuffed vegetables and vine leaf parcels are always popular, as is oven-baked moussaka and Greek salads made with the salty local feta. Tourists tend to love souvlaki (skewered and grilled meat) and the ever-popular gyros (a pita wrap filled with meat, sauce, salad, and chips).
Croatia’s diverse cultural influences have led to more variation from region to region. You’ll find Mediterranean flavors along the coast where the emphasis is on fresh seafood often eaten raw or BBQ grilled, salads drizzled with award-winning olive oil, and platters of smoked meats and fine cheeses. Inland and north, you’ll find Hungarian and Turkish influences leading to slow-cooked stews and spit-roasted meats. The eastern area of Slavonia enjoys a heavier hand with spices, while the peninsula of Istria prides itself on its truffles, cured pork, and the gourmet delicacy of Istrian oxen.
Winner: Greece – there are few dining experience that can beat long lunches in a seaside taverna.
Greece or Croatia for nightlife
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There are now several locations vying for the title of the Croatian Ibiza. Hvar is probably leading the lot. It’s abuzz with life when the yachters arrive in May and doesn’t calm again until the later summer. Start in Hula Hula and then move to Kiva Bar as midnight approaches. Croatia has also risen to become one of Europe’s best music festival destinations. Every summer there’s an overload of events on boats, beaches, in ancient forts, in natural caves – you name it. Split’s Ultra Europe EDM fest and the mega parties of Zrce Festival Beach are probably the standouts.
Greece has long been known as one of the top places to party in Europe. It offers a range of nightlife choices for everyone, no matter if you want to hit up the city clubs of Athens and Thessaloniki or check out the cocktail lounges and classy clubs of Santorini and Mykonos. The most famous places to let loose are probably the classic 18-30s party hubs. There’s a handful of them, including Kavos on the south side of Corfu and Malia on the north coast of Greece. Ios still reigns as the main party hub of the central Cyclades islands – don’t expect to get much sleep there between May and August!
Greece or Croatia for budget
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Either of these countries can be explored on a large or small budget. Much of what you’ll spend depends on where you want to go. In Croatia, the glitzy isles of the Adriatic and the Dalmatian Riviera are a lot pricier than the mountain towns in the east or the lesser-known isles of the Kvarner Gulf. In Greece, jet-set locales like Mykonos and Santorini will always set you back more than a trip to the Peloponnese or the Greek mainland.
Overall, we’d estimate that a week-long trip to Croatia would cost in the region of about $455 per person. That includes just the basics of accommodation and food, but not airfare to the country in the first place, which are likely to be costlier than Greece since there are fewer airport and airline options. Remember that can swell considerably if you want to stay in luxury hotels, do yacht charters, and drink champagne in Hvar’s harbor bars!
When it comes to Greece, we’d estimate that one person will spend around $650 per week staying in midrange hotels on a moderately priced island. Again, that doesn’t include airfare to the country, which is usually about $200 more if you’re coming in from Europe and doesn’t account for any over-the-top activities like boat hire.
Winner: Croatia wins this one.
Greece or Croatia for climate
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Both of these countries enjoy a beautiful Mediterranean climate, offering hot summers and mild winters. Since Greece is further south than Croatia, it enjoys warmer temperatures and the summer also lasts a little longer. The warm weather extends through autumn and spring, meaning it gets balmy enough for beach trips around May time and doesn’t properly cool again until October. The plus there is that it’s a great place for late-season holidays, which is when you get the best hotel bargains and dodge the bigger crowds.
The peak season in both places is from June to August, roughly coinciding with the major European school breaks. That’s when most travelers come, so you’re not likely to have the beaches to yourself. Things also get real hot – like 100 F+ hot – on occasion, though that is tempered a little by the northerly wind systems that blow throughout the midsummer.
For anyone not visiting the islands, it’s worth noting that this Mediterranean climate does not stretch to the entirety of either country. Both Greece and Croatia have a more continental climate along their northern regions, where extra rain is expected during the winter. This can even bring snow to the highlands, all the way from the Dinaric Alps of inland Croatia to the heights of Mount Olympus and even the White Mountains in Crete.
Winner: Greece – longer summers mean a longer travel season.
Greece or Croatia – our conclusion
Greece wins out five times to Croatia’s two times on this comparison. It wins thanks to the fact it has longer summers, more enticing islands, one of the world’s most tempting cuisines, and some of the most totemic history sights this side of Rome. Put together, that creates one seriously alluring destination, where culture buffs and dedicated beach bums looking to top up the tan will both be pleased. We also think Greece is a top option if you want to party – Mykonos, Ios, Malia, and Athens take care of that.
Croatia is a bit more of an adventure. It’s not as well-traveled as its Balkan compadre to the south and is only recently making a name for itself as one of Europe’s major festival and party hubs. You’ll probably have to make more effort to get there and to explore but you will be rewarded with some serious gems – think the sight of Dubrovnik city rising straight from the Adriatic Sea and visions of glitzy Hvar Town strewn with yachts. Croatia also has stunning natural features, including waterfalls and alpine mountains and pebble snorkelling coves. It’s the choice if you’re keen to go off the beaten track. Oh, and it’s more budget friendly.